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Your Complete Moving Checklist

by Shannon Steinberg on May 20, 2022

Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a way to move your belongings with a snap of your fingers? Until then, you’ll have to plan and pack the old-fashioned way. The only good news is moving doesn’t have to be a pain, not if you use a moving checklist.

A moving checklist breaks the move down into discreet and manageable steps, so nothing is forgotten or overlooked. Rather than scramble around trying to book things last minute, you tackle each challenge systematically, without stress or headaches. 

Of course, the first step is to start as early as you can. Though you’ll find this guide helpful at any stage of the moving process, it’s most effective when you give yourself sufficient time.

Eight Weeks Before

Begin by tackling the big issues. When do you want to move? Do you want to do it yourself or hire movers? How long will it take? How much will it cost? Once answered these basic questions, everything else will fall into place.

  • Research Moving Companies. Sadly, not every moving company is reputable, so read up on them. Large movers are generally better at interstate moves, while small companies only operate in the local area. 
  • Get a Quote. Once you’ve narrowed your choice to 3-4 companies, reach out for pricing. First, write down exactly what you’ll need help with. Disassembling or reassembling furniture? Mounting a TV? Moving special items (e.g. exercise equipment, piano, pool table)? Transporting large appliances (refrigerators, washer, dryer, etc.)? They’ll also want some details about your home. Are there stairs or a freight elevator? How big is it?
  • Ask Questions. Does the company have experience with your type of move? What liability do they provide? How long will the move take? Will they handle everything themselves or do they work with subcontractors? What forms of payment do they accept?
  • Create a Budget. Once you’ve received quotes, you’ll have a good idea of how much money you’ll need to set aside. Always budget a bit more, just in case. If you’re moving because of work, your company may help cover expenses.
  • Book Movers. Reserve your date as early as possible, especially if you’re moving during summer. It’s the busiest moving season.
  • Create a Moving Folder. Keep your paperwork in a central location so you have easy access to it. Odds are you’ll need both a digital and physical folder for your documents.

Seven Weeks Before

Now that you’ve chosen a moving company, it’s time to work out your long-term plans for the move.  

  • Give Notice. Tell your boss you’re moving, if you haven’t already. Renters should also tell their landlord they’ll be moving out, to avoid paying any extra fees. 
  • Tell Your Kids. Let your kids know you’ll be moving to a new home. If they’re upset, the best thing to do is give them space, answer their questions, and emphasize as many positive aspects as you can.
  • Research New Schools. If you’re moving to a new school district, obviously your kids will need to transfer. Contact their current school for transcripts and complete their enrollment forms as soon as possible to ensure they don’t get left behind.
  • Make Travel Arrangements. If you’re moving to a new city, you’ll need to book flights and hotels. On the other hand, if you’re driving, take your car in for a tune up. If you own multiple vehicles, contact a car moving service for help.
  • Reserve a Storage Unit. Sometimes, dates don’t line up and you’ll need to store your belongings before moving into your new home. In this case, it’s best to reserve a unit as far in advance as possible.
  • Update Your Bank, Insurance, & Healthcare Info. At the very least, you’ll need to give them your new address. If they don’t operate in your area, you may need to switch banks or purchase new insurance.

     

Six Weeks Before

Start preparing your home for the move. You don’t need to pack your belongings just yet, but you should start organizing them so they can be quickly boxed up when the time comes.

  • Purchase Moving Supplies. You’ll need boxes, packing tape, packing paper, and packing peanuts. Ask local stores if they have any old boxes they might be willing to give you for free.
  • Inventory Your Home. Go through each room and make note of the contents, especially items that need special care (e.g. antiques, heirlooms). Examine the condition of your furniture and take pictures, in case you need to prove something was damaged during the move.
  • Donate Unwanted Items. We’ve purchased items we no longer have any use for. Rather than bring them with you, donate them to charity or hold a garage sale instead.
  • Pack Rarely Used Items. Now is the perfect time to box up anything you won’t be using for the next few months: Christmas decorations, winter clothing, camping supplies, etc. 
  • Set Aside Dangerous Items. Not all your belongings can come with you. Movers won’t handle ammonia, bleach, fertilizer, pesticides, motor oil, kerosene, fluorescent light bulbs, fire extinguishers, matches, firearms, ammunition, or paint. They may be safe in your garage, but they can’t be transported safely in a moving van.
  • Contact Your Internet & Utility Providers. End service to your current home the day after you move out. Start service in your new home the day before you move in.
  • Notify the Post Office. Let them know your new address, so they can forward your mail.

     

Four Weeks Before

Now that the big picture items are out of the way, it’s time to start packing your belongings. Beginning early will save a lot of headache later on.

  • Make a Packing Schedule. Start with the rooms you use least, such as the garage or study. Pack at least an hour a day, working through your rooms one by one. The process will go by much faster than you think.
  • Put Valuables in a Lockbox. Your necklaces, earrings, watches, and precious metals should be secured in a strongbox to protect against theft and loss. 
  • Decide What Items Can Be Packed Last. Rooms don’t have to be boxed up completely. Leave out anything you think you might need. You can always circle back before you go.
  • Keep Hardware Together. When disassembling furniture, make sure you keep the screws, nuts, and bolts together in a bag. It’s also a good idea to label the bag or tape it to the item or both.
  • Visit Friends & Family. If you’re moving to a new city, take time out of your schedule to say goodbye to your loved ones in the area. Who knows when you’ll get a chance to see them again?

     

Two Weeks Before

Moving into the final stretch, it’s time to focus on the smaller details. Get them out of the way so you can focus on the bigger issues next week. 

  • Confirm Your Moving Date. Surprises are fun on your birthday, but not on moving day. Call your movers and make sure everything is on track. They aren’t fond of surprises any more than you are, so update them about any new developments or concerns. 
  • Plan Your Final Meals. Perishable foods will have to be eaten or thrown out, so create a meal plan. Your goal should be to have no food left by the time you leave.
  • Arrange a Babysitter or Pet Sitter. Kids and pets aren’t safe while you’re carrying heavy furniture. Ask someone you trust to look after them for a day. While they’re off having fun, you can concentrate on the move.
  • Clean & Repair. Whether you live in a house or apartment, it’s always a good idea to get everything spic and span and take care of minor repairs before you go. It makes your home easier to sell or, if you have a landlord, helps get your deposit back.
  • Request the Day Off From Work. Though moving on weekends is more popular, moving on weekdays is cheaper. Schedule your move for Monday ‒ Friday if you can and let your boss know you won’t be in.
  • Run Errands. Do you need prescriptions refilled? Return library books? Pick up your dry cleaning? Pay outstanding parking tickets? Now is the time to take care of them.
  • Update Your Driver’s License. You need to notify the DMV of your new address within 10 days. You can wait until after you move, but there’s so much to distract you it’s best to do it now.

     

One Week Before

The big day is approaching. Time to dive into the nitty gritty.

  • Defrost Your Refrigerator. You need to get all the water out if you’re bringing it with you. Once it’s fully defrosted, wipe down the inside as well.
  • Create an Overnight Bag. You’re going to be tired after unloading the truck, too tired to hunt through your belongings for what you need that first night. Save yourself the effort by putting together a suitcase with the essentials: toothbrush, pajamas, change of clothes, etc.
  • Withdraw Cash. It’s customary to tip your movers 10-15 percent of the total bill. It’s a thank-you for the hard work they’ve put in.
  • Take Photos of Your Electronics. Remembering where the wires go on your TV, computer, and gaming consoles can be tricky. So, to simplify the process. Before you take them apart, snap a picture and use it as a guide when you get to your new home.
  • Collect Keys, Fobs, & Door Openers. Gather everything that can be used to access your home or the facilities in your housing complex, the gym and pool, for instance. 
  • Check the Weather. Hopefully it will be clear and sunny the day you move. But if they’re predicting rain, you’ll need to take extra precautions, such as laying down floor mats and wrapping your belongings in plastic bags.
  • Take Pictures of Your Home. Once the rooms have been packed up, take a few picks to prove you left the place in good condition.
  • Disassemble Your Bed. The last thing you’ll want to take apart. Save it for the night before or get up early and take care of it before the movers arrive.

     

Day of the Move

It’s finally here! Your work over the previous weeks is finally coming together. If you’ve followed the guide, there shouldn’t be much for you to do at this point. Everything should unfold like clockwork.

  • Wake Up Early. An early start gives you time to take care of any last minute details. 
  • Set Out Water & Snacks. Whether you’ve hired professional movers or asked your friends, refreshments keep everyone energized and motivated.
  • Clear a Path. People are going to be walking in and out of your home all day, so shove all the boxes and furniture off to the side. You don’t want any tripping hazards.
  • Greet & Direct the Movers. Show them around your house, so they get a feel for the job ahead. No doubt they’ll want to start with the big items, so point them out along with anything that needs special handling.
  • Ask For Inventory From Movers. It’s proof that they’ve taken responsibility for your belongings. In case something goes wrong, you’ll need this form to file a claim.
  • Trade Phone Numbers with the Driver. If there are any snags on the road, you’ll need a way to get in touch.
  • Do a Final Sweep. Check the closets, shelves, and cupboards. Turn off the lights and the thermostat.
  • Hand Over Your Keys. Once you’re certain everything has been moved out, it’s time to say goodbye.
  • Direct Your Movers. You’re the only one who knows where everything goes, so don’t start unpacking until the movers have gotten the right boxes into the right rooms.

     

The Day After

It’s done! You’re moved in and can start settling into your new place. However, there are still a few chores to take care of.

  • Flatten & Recycle Boxes. You can also donate your boxes to Goodwill, your local church, or homeless shelter. 
  • Change Locks. You don’t know how many spare keys the previous tenant lent out, so it’s always a good idea to hire a locksmith after you move in.
  • Unpack in Order of Priority. You rely on the contents of some rooms (e.g. kitchen, bathroom) more than others, so unpack them first.
  • Check Your Smoke Alarms. Track down your smoke alarms and make sure they’re working.
  • Inquire About Handymen in Your Area. When you go around introducing yourself to your new neighbors, ask if they know a good handyman. Because chances are sooner or later you’ll need help with home repairs.
  • Go Grocery Shopping. Now that you’ve got your fridge plugged in, it’s time to stock up!
  • Relax. And enjoy your new home. You’ve earned it.

     

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